Packed with three beautiful Reinhardt/Grappelli guitar/piano duets, one gorgeous unaccompanied guitar improvisation, 15 solid Quintet sides, and the legendary Rex Stewart "Feetwarmers" session of April 5, 1939, this excellent volume of chronologically reissued Django Reinhardt recordings occupies a position somewhere between "magnificent" and "essential." After a vigorous jam on "Them There Eyes" and a pleasantly swung "Three Little Words," intimations of developing modernity suddenly erupt during "Appel Direct," also known as "Appel Indirect" or "Direct Appeal." Django delivers some downright devilish picking during this brisk exercise in dexterity. Crossing the Channel for a return trip to England, Django and Stéphane's Quintette -- now billed as the "Quintet" on British and American Decca records -- waxed three sides on the 30th of August 1938. The French artists' vigilance and unwavering allegiance to Afro-American music is clearly spelled out in their choice of material. Slim Gaillard and Slam Stewart had recorded possibly their most famous song, "Flat Foot Floogie," in February of 1938. Fats Waller & His Continental Rhythm waxed their four-alarm version in London a few months later on August 28, and the Quintet's mellower rendering, with an arresting solo guitar intro, was set down for posterity two days later, along with "Lambeth Walk," which had been recorded by Duke Ellington on August 9th. Django's unaccompanied "Improvisation No. 2" is a sequel to a similarly striking experiment dating from April of 1937. Back in Paris in March of 1939, the Quintet waxed nine more choice sides, taking on a whole stretch of Tin Pan Alley while presenting various compositions of their own devising. But the real treasure in this package lies among the final five tracks. Rex Stewart, Barney Bigard, and bassist Billy Taylor collaborated with Monsieur Reinhardt on five exquisite performances that rate among the finest in the entire "Djangologie." The combination of three seasoned Ellingtonians and one gypsy jazz genius is a rare treat not to be missed.
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AllMusic Review by arwulf arwulf